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Husk: small-scale paddock to bottle rum

Just over half an hour from Byron Bay, find a small-scale farm and distillery that functions within a ‘full circle’ process.

Rum made in and of the North Coast

Fascinated by the fragrant rums of the Caribbean islands, a family in Northern NSW began a journey to create a distillery. Husk, launched in 2012, was brought to the world by Paul Messenger, his wife Mandy and daughters Harriet, Edwina and Claudia. Surrounded by luscious greenery and tucked away in the green landscape surrounding Mount Warning, Husk Distillery is a paddock to bottle gem in New South Wales.

The idea for Husk rum might have grown from the vibrancy of Caribbean culture, yet it offers a distinctively Australian expression. And put simply, this is all due to the intimacy of the rum – and Husk as a business – with the land from which it is produced. Agricole rums from Husk are unique due to their environment. Sipping on a Husk rum, you’re instantly connected to the salty sea air, the volcanic soils and clear waters which make up this beautifully luscious part of New South Wales. Husk eloquently states:

Credit: Husk

“Our rums are about provenance and a sense of place…. From the Gondwana rainforests and mountains of the caldera, to the surf, sand and rocky headlands of the coast, these rums and cane spirits are made in and of the North Coast of NSW.”

From roots to bottles

Priding themselves as farmers first, Husk grows extremely high quality sugar cane. Meanwhile, the business also uses a handful of methods fairly uncommon in the industry, resulting in something truly distinctive and unique to the valley in New South Wales from which it is crafted. 

The beginning of the growing season at Husk is hot and humid, resulting in sugar cane on the farm growing at a rate of over an inch per day. In winter the sugar cane is ready, and over six months, hundreds of thousands of tonnes of sugar cane is harvested and crushed. Then, during the fermentation stage, a particular strain of yeast is combined with the beautifully fresh cane juice. Sitting for 100 hours, the rum is left for much longer than the typical Caribbean version, therefore creating a deep nutty flavour. Following this, the distilling stage sees a process of boiling and condensation so to separate the components inside the wonderful sugary mixture. 

Credit: Husk

Finally, the ageing and maturing process occurs in new American oak, with the use of ex-port and ex-bourbon barrels. Leaving the rums for six to twelve moths creates a perfectly mature flavour due to the wildly varied temperatures of the region which expands and contracts the barrels, pushing liquid in and out of the wood. Interestingly, no flavourings or colour is added to any Husk Rum and so flooding out of the barrel, the gorgeously sweet and nutty rum is ready to be enjoyed. 

Full circle distilling 

So what is it exactly that makes the rum process at Husk sustainable? Aside from practicing sustainable distilling and using natural and native ingredients and botanicals from the local area, 100% of the sugar cane is considered ‘zero mile’ produce from the farm itself, therefore massively reducing Husk’s carbon footprint. However, Husk has a number of other sustainability initiatives, one of the most impressive feats relating to waste reduction. 

Credit: Husk

All waste and bi-products from the rum making process are put back into the family’s farm, in a system of full circle distilling. The ‘waste disposal team’, otherwise known as the property’s own cows, eat the distillery waste during the winter months when the grass has a lower nutritional value. Meanwhile, anything the cows aren’t able to eat is used for rainforest regeneration in the farm’s own backyard. The bi-product mulch set upon the ground of the rainforest makes for awesome compost.

And there’s more tree hugging where that came from. Planting more than 1800 native trees and shrubs across the property, surveying wildlife across the 12 hectares of rainforest and working to remove invasive species, Husk certainly does its part for the trees.

Finally, front of house operations are also carried out with sustainability at the forefront. For example, recycling into all categories, low plastic consumption, rainwater tanks for toilets, kitchen and parts of the fermenting and cooling processes of the rums are also key to the running of Husk. An on-site septic system used for irrigation of the fields adds to the extent to which Husk can withdraw from the grid, towards self-sufficiency. 

Credit: Husk

Those fond of a weekend drink with friends, why not spice things up with a trip to Husk. Pop into the cellar door to try the range of exquisite spirits, or opt for a tour and a learn a little about your favourite rum, and all the wonderful environmental elements intertwined with the painstaking distilling process. 

Where?

Website: www.huskdistillers.com

Address: 1152 Dulguigan Rd, North Tumbulgum NSW 2490

When?

Monday – Tuesday | Closed

Wednesday – Thursday | 11am-5pm

Friday – Saturday | 11am-6.30pm

Sunday | 11am-5pm

Jessica Beaumont
Noticing the footprints left behind by travellers in the countries she has lived in and loved, Jessica found her calling in the sustainable travel niche. Aside from writing, Jessica is found exploring the Adelaide Hills for good views and delectable wines, dancing, taking leisurely walks on the beach and trying to make friends with dogs.